America’s financial crisis dominated the first of three live televised debates between the two main candidates for the Presidency.
Democrat Barack Obama wasted no time in claiming the crisis was the result of lax policy decisions by the Bush administration while Republican John McCain said a joint strategy was called for.
“This is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by George Bush supported by Senator McCain,” said Obama.
McCain said: “The point is we’ve finally seen Republicans and Democrats sitting down and negotiating together and coming up with a package.”
The forum, in Mississippi, was meant to have concentrated on foreign policy and national security. When talk finally did turn to Iraq, the differences were clear.
“Senator Obama still doesn’t quite understand, or doesn’t get it. If we fail in Iraq it encourages Al Qaeda. They would establish a base in Iraq,” said McCain.
Obama replied: “We have weakened our capacity to project power around the world because we have viewed everything through this single lens.”
McCain accused Obama of inexperience in his approach to the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia and his hardline stance towards Moscow.
“A resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region,” said Obama. “Their actions in Georgia were unacceptable.”
“I don’t believe we’re going to go back to the Cold War,” McCain responded. “I am sure that will not happen, but I do believe that we need to bolster our friends and allies. And that wasn’t just about a problem between Georgia and Russia. It had everything to do with energy.”
An estimated 40 million Americans watched the debate. Analysts say initial reactions suggest the clash lacked the fireworks many had been expecting and there was no clear winner.
Some say McCain seemed more at ease than his rival, while others estimate that Obama’s more considered responses may have gone some way to influence as yet undecided voters.
A second presidential debate is scheduled for October the 7th and the third for October the 15th.